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Friday, November 30, 2007

Perfume Review: CB I Hate Perfume In The Library and Demeter a small prize draw and a short poll

Today I salute my fellow bookworms. In search of a perfume that would smell like a just-printed-just-received-from-amazon tome (a little acid, crisp, almost clean in a way), like an old, old book found in an antique bookstore (dump and a little incensey) or as an library in general, preferably The Bodleian Library in particular (a little musty, a little dusty, a little leathery, old-worldly, fairly stuffy and strangely comforting), I tried Demeter's Paperback and Christopher Brosius's In The Library. Neither turned out to be what I wanted, although both were delightful and wearable.

Demeter promises that Paperback would smell like "a dusty old copy of a Barbara Pym novel... sweet and just a touch musty". Brosius promises that In The Library would blend the smell of a Signed First Edition of one of his "very favorite novels, Russian & Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth and a hint of wood polish". Given both lines' ability to conjure up very true-to-life fragrances, it is surprising that Paperback and In The Library don't really deliver. Both smell "sweet and just a touch musty", and if I try really hard, I do get a hint of leather in In The Library, but neither scent makes me think of books, old or new, or libraries. Truth to be told, the scents are also strikingly similar, which, taking into account the fact that Brosius probably created Paperback in the first place (?), is not that surprising. Like I said, there is a sharper, drier accord, with subtle smoky feel, in In The Library, but it is very delicate, and the rest of the scent is practically identical to the softly-cedarwoody, slightly ambery composition of Paperback. Both also make me think of LesNez's Let Me Play the Lion, without the piquancy of the latter.

And so the search for a new/old book and/or library-like perfume continues. Have you found one? Do tell. And if you would like to try Paperback and In The Library, say so in your comment and your name will be entered into the draw. The randomly chosen winner will receive samples of both along with a sample of The Pink Room's newest release, Pour Toi (which, as you will find out if you read their copy, was actually in a way inspired by a writer and a fictional heroine), the four new Frapins and Domenico Caraceni 1913.

Also how about a short poll?

-What book read in the last couple of months or maybe in whole 2007 left the most lasting, the strongest impression on you?
-What was the last book you read?
-What book do you most want to read?
-Favorite book of all time?

Have a great week, everybody!

Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Double Perfume Review: Frapin Caravelle Epicee, Esprit de Fleurs, Passion Boisee and Terre de Sarment

...or a Double Dose of Grumpiness

Esprit de Fleurs


Esprit de Fleurs is written of as "airy and crystalline". It is airy, a pleasant bergamotty thing, with a bit of grapefruit and a bare hint of pepper. That accord also has the lasting power of a fruit fly; the scent then morphs into a light woodiness that's very pleasant.


Dry, green floral with a bit of a citrusy sparkle, Esprit de Fleurs is a welcome break from sweet offerings of this and many other brands. Its fresh, elegant feel is being compared to the taste of brut champagne, and I find the comparison very apt. Having said that, I like Esprit de Fleurs "apophatically", so to say, for what it is not: not sweet, not fruity, not gourmand, not, heaven help me, endlessly woody-ambery-spicy like what seems every other scent on niche market (that's right, one gets tired not only of fruits and vanilla but of woods and spices too, when they are rendered in the same Wannabe Lutens style.). Taken on its own, however, Esprit de Fleurs is rather boring. A neutral, understated blend, appropriate in any season, for any occasion.

Passion Boisee


Passion Boisee starts with a candied citrus, reminding me a bit of one of the Christmas candies we used to get when we were kids. It then goes to a light cedar. I was promised leather and got none, I was promised oakmoss and got a bare whiff.


The beginning of Passion Boisee is very appealing, reminiscent of chocolate candies stuffed with cherries filled with cognac. The fruity booziness quickly becomes replaced by the dry, spicy woodiness (nutmeg + cedarwood) that reminds me a little of the piquant powderiness of Rousse. I don't find Passion Boisee particularly original, but it is easy to wear and easy to like if not love, and I imagine it would be very pleasant and very fitting during the cold days of Holiday season.

Caravelle Epicée


Caravelle Epicée is the boldest of the bunch, which is rather like writing that one Olsen twin is the fatter of the two. It starts with a father fatty nutmeggy amber, with discernible coriander. Vanilla pops forward before it settles to an unassuming sandalwood.


A potent brew of Ambre Narguile, Wild Woods and dill. Will probably be the most popular of the bunch, and probably deservedly so. More or less unwearble for me.

Terre de Sarment


Terre de Sarment starts with an accord that smells quite like the glue that I used to make models as a kid, that citrus-scented stuff that was introduced after they found out that kids were sniffing the older formulations to get high. It's immediately joined by the smell of fresh sheets, then gets a little dirty, with an edge of cumin, with that same nutmeggy vanilla. I think I like this one the best, but none of these are making me run out to buy.


Terre de Sarment suffers from too much of too many good ingredients syndrome so typical of many attempts at Lutenesque originality. Let's throw together every spice on the rack, not forgetting the most controversial of them all, cumin, let's add to that incense and tobacco, sweeten the blend with a generous helping of vanilla, and Chris Sheldrake has nothing on us...goes this thinking. The result is, in fact, not altogether unattractive. The spices create a strange iodine and therefore, in a way, aoud-like undertone, and tobacco-vanilla accord has, in contrast to that, a warm, over-ripe, again almost cherry-like sweetness. But I feel that this Terre is the one where I've been many times before, and I am ready to discover new and more original lands.


None of these are scrubbers, mind you. They are all well made, pleasant, and if you are looking for a nice scent that doesn't dance up to you and bop you on the nose with it's in-your-face oddness these may be your nonfat soy latte. Nice thought they are, I have to write that my $140 is still firmly in my bank account on these.

But I do have to ask, is scent the new .com? Remember in the late 90's when everyone was convinced that a buttload of cash and the idea that everything should be available on the internet would lead to instant income? The idea that led to,,, remember? Then it was found that most of these were basically stupid ideas? I mean, "I Hate Going To The Video Store" plus "You Never Have To Ask 'Does This DVD Make My Ass LookFat?'" equals Netflix equals profit. Most of the rest? Not so much. I sort of get the same feeling about the plethora of new lines that are popping up like dandelions these days. Many of them,like these are quite good, mind you. Some of them? Not so much. It seems that at this point that even the good ones are in danger of getting lost in the general cacophony of new releases being fed into the hungry maw that is New!

So I beg of you, prospective parfumeur, the next time you think that what the world needs now is not love, sweet love, but your take on what a fruity-floral can be when those frozen blackberries and clean sheet notes really roll up their sleeves and go to work, I urge you to seek the nearest dark bar and indulge in your favorite alcoholic beverage until said urge passes. Because I will be waiting. It won't be pretty.


...and when you, prospective parfumeur, think that what the world needs now is yet another Fumerie Turque, Chergui, Ambre Narguile or Luctor et Emergo, I urge you to think outside of this admittedly very small and very exclusive and very attractive box.

The Grumpy Two have spoken.

Image source, Luckyscent. The scents are available there, $140.00 for 100ml.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

8th Basenotes Fragrance Awards. Cast Your Vote!

Basenotes have announced the opening of their annual consumer led awards. This year the categories are as follows:

Best new fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best overall fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best fragrance for day (Masculine and Feminine)
Best fragrance for evening (Masculine and Feminine)
Best fragrance packaging (Masculine and Feminine)
Best designer, mainstream or fine fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best niche, independent, artisan or boutique fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best mass-market, drugstore, budget or direct-sell fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best celebrity fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
Best fragrance house
Best fragrance blog

The Annual Basenotes Fragrance Awards traditionally offers a prize to a randomly selected voter and this year that prize is being offered by A $250 certificate to spend on a selection of the thousands of products available at's online store will be presented to the winner whose name will be drawn when the award results are announced. Voting for the awards is open from the 27th November until 31st December 2007, with both the results and the winner of the gift certificate being announced at the beginning of February 2008. Votes can be registered at

Info source, Basenotes press release.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Forbidden Fruit - Frosty Couture

By Beth

Have you ever had a lover, one who was so delicious in all the right ways, but that you’d never be seen in public with? I’ve had a few of those affairs , absolutely delightful in their inappropriateness. There’s nothing like a dalliance with absolutely the wrong man to make you giggle a bit! It seem that there are also certain fragrances created with that similar forbidden appeal and I am pleased to say that I’ve just found another one of them! I went into Saks to try a sniff of the new Diesel’s today, and was instead sidetracked by the saleswoman who usually feeds my Annick Goutal addictions. She showed me the “Holiday” version of Juicy Couture, a fragrance that I have never looked, at let alone sniffed. At first I was taken aback, I’ve always considered Juicy Couture in the untouchable perfume category for a “mature” woman like me, sort of like miniskirts and long hair after 40 (although I still sport both!) Mona is a lovely woman though and I have always trusted her suggestions. Besides, her eyes were twinkling and she was wearing an irresistible grin like a big Cheshire cat so I was completely intrigued, and as I soon discovered , rightfully so!

This particular Juicy Couture is sold in a big beautiful crystal bottle, with a little sparkly crystal snowflake necklace attached. There’s the cutest little Scottie dog emblem (Oh my Gawd…) emblazoned on the bottle and the whole package is rather pink, yet utterly fascinating in the most frivolous and tawdry way. It also has molten yummy sparkles in it that you have to shake the bottle first to mix, sort of like liquid mother of pearl. Then you spray it on with much affectation focusing especially on the shoulders and if you dare lower still. Its official name is “Frosty Couture”.

I find that Frosty Couture is actually surprisingly good after the initial shock of bubbly teenage fruitiness! It is a supposedly limited edition (the sparkly version) and that beautiful bottle holds more than a few evenings of fun! Described as a “ Playful and glamorous Eau de Couture” and supposedly inspired by the “Golden age of French perfumery, Marie Antoinette and pastel cookie boxes” , Frosty Couture has very fruity top notes of watermelon, passion fruit and mandarin and finishes like a fabulous crème brulee topped with caramel, vanilla and a bit of patchouli. I was surprised that it smelled really good on me, I thought that it would just disappear into a marshmallow mess on my skin. Instead it became a velvety vanilla custard with a just a taste of the incredible chocolate and passion fruit macaroons that my sister brings me home from Laduree’ in Paris every summer.

Needless to say, being a bit of a silly witch I love anything with sparkles, so I sprayed some more of it on (especially around the cleavage) and took it home to my very gentlemanly husband who blushingly told me that it reminded him of a scent that a stripper would wear and he thought it was pretty “in your face” sexy. I love that man.

So I immediately went back to Saks and bought it, sparkly pink box and all. To be honest with you, I love it…. there I’ve said it. I’m not ashamed! I probably won’t buy it again though unless they keep it around with the sparkles, the shimmer gives this fragrance its raison d’être. I can also attest to my husband’s continued health and well being even as he devoured a few of those sparkles! So far, what I’ve noticed is that men seem to love this perfume, at least all of my husband’s stuffy pinstriped friends who kept sticking their faces in my neck when we went out for drinks. I told them where they could buy it for their wives, but they said that their women would never wear it for them, too sexy, too silly. So sad , but works for me, I love playing the muse! God, I feel so cheap……but it feels so good! Fortunately for all of you who want to join me in my Moulin Rouge fantasy there’s plenty of this to go around, at least for now! Please don’t wait… like Anais Nin and Colette , Frosty Couture is definitely sexy fun that’s completely wasted on the young!

Macaroon photograph courtesy of Photo of Frosty Couture courtesy of Saks Fifth Ave.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Perfume Review: Domenico Caraceni

Sometimes ignorance is a blessing. Not knowing any background info on a brand, notes, etc, allows one to smell a perfume with a fresh nose, so to say. Not, to my shame, being familiar with Domenico Caraceni, upon sniffing their eponymous blend, I decided it was a feminine fragrance, and the rare species at that - a chypre. Have I done my homework before sniffing, I would have realized that a line that, since 1913, has been specializing in custom tailored suits, would probably release a masculine perfume as their signature. And indeed, according to First in Fragrance, Domenico Caraceni Eau de Toilette is "a classic composition for the elegant gentleman with a great style."

A woman-fan of chypres, however, will not find this fairly dry, not particularly floral and beautifully understated scent to be any harder to wear than Y, Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, Crêpe de Chine...and would certainly consider it much easier going than Bandit. The frankincense note is apparent, on my skin, from the very start, and, combined with the beautifully bright bitterness of petit grain, it creates, in the top notes, an accord that is something in between black tea and whiskey. Geranium and rose perform wonderfully together, bringing to the scent a deep, earthy floral undertone. The thorny quality of the flowers is underscored by the presence of spicy, somewhat pine-like aroma of cypress. I don't know whether the composition actually contains any of the classic chypre ingredients such as, first and foremost, oakmoss, but, whatever ingredients were used to achieve that effect, the base notes of Domenico Caraceni, do have, to my nose, a mossy, ambery feel and the restrained elegance of a proper chypre. Classically structured and classically refined, but with a bit of a quirky twist (incense!), Domenico Caraceni was a delightful discovery for me. Highly recommended, for men and women alike.

Domenico Caraceni is available at First in Fragrance, €79.00 for 100ml.

New Launches Aplenty

According to, in the coming year, Selective Beauty alone will launch the following fragrances:

- A new MaxMara perfume that will become “the real return of the brand” to the fragrance world. Created by perfumer Vincent Schaller (Firmenich), the scent is built around a nutmeg note, and five different musks, which make up 60% of the fragrance. "The flat, elongated teardrop-shaped bottle" was designed by Thierry de Baschmakoff. The ad campaign features American model Amy Wesson. The EdP is priced from €45 (30ml) to €85 (90ml). The launch will take place in February in Europe and the US and will be followed by the rest of the world before September.

- The first fragrance line for John Galliano

- The first Jimmy Choo women’s scent in the US and UK markets

- A men’s line for Agent Provocateur

- A new women’s line (code name: Adagio) will join the Trussardi’s portfolio

- A new Iceberg offering, The Iceberg Fragrance for women over 30

- A new fragrance duo line for Bennetton called Benissimo

And this is just one company... Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Perfume Review: Spiritueuse Double Vanille by Guerlain

Review by Tom

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Robin, I now have a quite large decant of this fragrance. This is not a fragrance that I should love at all- I pretty much dislike vanilla in scents as a rule, perhaps because they usually smell to me like Vanillin (that god-awful stuff that substitutes for real vanilla in commercial baked goods). Foody snob that I am, I only like the real stuff; one year a good friend of mine hooked me up with home-made vanilla extract, which apparently is the easiest thing in the world to make.

Split vanilla pods lengthwise

Put in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid

Pour on good vodka to cover.

Put on lid and walk away for a couple months

The opening of Spiritueuse Double Vanille is just that smell: sweet, slightly earthy vanilla pods and that slightly cold slap of spikey booze. There's a touch of the fenugreek here that deepens it from being totally cocktail, then I start to smell immortelle (I know, so did Colombina) as the scent loses the boozy edge and becomes more rounded, very full and, well, cushy is the word that comes to mind.

Colombina described it as "softer than soft, a gentle, fluffy skin scent with just a touch of dry piquancy" and it is: there's an pillowy quality to it's drydown that borders on being almost doughy. I do smell a touch of the Guerlinade in there, or perhaps I am just imagining it. There's also a touch of incense, and a bare whiff of uncured tobacco. I have a feeling that there's also some pretty fierce sillage going on there; I put one teensy spritz on my chest before going to work and I was smelling it strongly throughout the day. While this is a very soft scent that would be divine on a woman, there's really nothing in there that would make it something a man could not easily wear. Just go steadily in the application, boys.

Double Vanille is apparently going to be a limited edition, which is too bad. It's lovely, and deserves to be kept around far more than some of the snoozes that have come out of that venerated house recently (cough) Aqua Allegoria (cough). It's a perfect comfort scent for fall/winter: the gourmand thrice-risenness of the vanilla is cashmere-blankie level comforting, while not being overpoweringly foody or too literal in Cinnabon sweetness. It's a perfect midnight snack of a perfume, and if you'll excuse me I am going to go bury my nose in my chest for a while and enjoy. Ahhhh, my happy place....

$200 for 75ml, at Bergdorf Goodman

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

And heartfelt Thank You from all of us at PST to our wonderful readers and commenters!

Image source,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Which I Am Being Thankful

In keeping with tomorrow's holiday spirit, let's talk about what causes us to be grateful. I am thankful for:

Commute. Because it finally gave me time to read again.

Books. Because they make commute bearable. Two highlights of my reading in the last couple of months were Possession by A.S. Byatt and Dana Tomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. The latter will confirm all the worst suspicions you had about the luxury industry and will chart the regress of "luxury" and its transformation into "mass". There is a chapter devoted to perfume, and overall it is a compelling read, and I highly recommend it. Any books you loved lately? Do share!

Amouage Body and Bath line. Because it is so luxurious and so wonderfully true to the original scents (Gold and Dia), that it actually makes me see the night time moisturizing, etc. ritual as a pleasure and not as a tiresome necessity, as before.

Erno Laszlo Regular Normalizer Shake-It. The best primer I have ever had, and I have had many. It gives skin an even tone, gets rid of the "shine" and keeps makeup in place. With 9 hour workdays, that is a big deal.

TV. That's right, TV. After the aforementioned 9 hours at work, all I want is mindless entertainment which would allow me Not to Think whilst lying down on a sofa in my fluffy old robe, sipping wine. Enter Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, The Girls Next Door and endless re-runs of Mad Aboud You, Friends and Midsomer Murders. What are your guilty TV pleasures?

Montale White Aoud. Speaking of fluffy robes, White Aoud is, to me, an olfactory equivalent of one... and after 9 hours of constant perfume-smelling , such a familiar, comforting, non-demanding scent is just what I need.

And above all I am thankful for these two:

They make it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Letting my freak flag fly: Dinner by Bobo

By Linda

Sometimes we have to admit to loving something that many others don’t. For me, one of those choices is Dinner by Bobo.

It makes me giggle, it’s simultaneously intimate and elegant, and I find it endlessly interesting—I cannot stop sniffing it. It’s not for everyone, but I have a crush on it that won’t quit. It is kind of a significant other of a fragrance; I don’t necessarily want to share, but I like spending quality time with it and I think it’s worth showing off.

Although the top notes are all supposed to be citrus, it opens for me with a blast of cumin and a whisper of patchouli, boozy with an almost cognac scent that I think has something to do with peach. This is the phase that most people seem to find scrub-worthy: it is unabashedly sweaty and discordant. If you hate it in this clean-gym-sweat first blush, I understand (my partner says it should be called “Dinner with Hobo” in the initial blast), but there’s something raw and sexual and exotic here, like the thrill of wandering an open-air marketplace in a hot climate.

Rich, exotically spiced plum and peach rise up and strengthen the phantom cognac note. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, candied fruit, and licks of vanilla soothe away the pungency of the cumin, but never entirely lay it to rest. It is sweet, but not too sweet, as the subtle citrus, the cumin, and the tartness of the plum keep it from turning into dessert during its foody heart.

As it mellows, it loses some of the sweetness of the heart. One finds oneself scented by the memory of the cumin and spiced fruit, drunk on the booziness that carries it from beginning to end, and surrounded by voluptuous incense, musky vanilla, tartly resinous woods, and subtle flowers – creamy, powdery, and downright naughty ylang with a whisper of jasmine and violets. It takes a while to reach this stage, which lasts forever, but it is dreamy. Fragrances do not always conjure images for me, but I do get one from this last stage of Dinner: reclining on a heavy, wooden four-poster bed with incense smoldering on the nightstand, after indulging in a lavish and exotic feast, with the breeze carrying in the scent of flowers from the balcony. It smells a little tipsy, totally relaxed, sated but wide awake—and willing to try anything.

Dinner isn’t a bad name for it, but it recalls the pleasure of attending a dinner companion, not the meal itself. It’s lovable, attractive, and I love to listen to it tell its jokes and raucous stories about its exotic travels. The edible fragrances of spices and fruit are just a lush setting for all this intimate sociability.

Does it have “skank appeal?” Oh yes, in buckets. It’s a dirty, dirty beast. This is a dinner companion you want to take home and wrap in your cool clean sheets, once it’s done amusing the other guests.

It’s a hard one to characterize. It is pretty, but not conventionally so; fruity, but not innocent; it is disturbing, mellow, playful, unpredictable, and politically incorrect. The first time I wore it, my partner declared that it was very feminine. The second time, he told me that he is too hetero to be into it. It’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery, I guess.

So who can wear it? I think it would be heavenly on a man unafraid to wear all that glaceed fruit. I know that I find it yummy on a woman confident enough to weather the cumin and all that booze. I know a lot of people hate it, but I love it passionately.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Parfums Gres Homage to Marlene Dietrich

Parfums Grès is launching the Parfum Grès collection, "inspired by legendary women". The first three fragrances, to be released in spring 2008, will pay homage to Marlene Dietrich. My Dream and My Passion are florals, and My Life is a chypre. The 60ml EdPs will cost €59. Let's hope the collection contributes to the revival of Parfums Grès. Let's hope that the scents are good enough to be associated with Dietrich.

Image source,

From The Diary of a Scent Addict…

By Kelley

OK, so how many bottles of perfume would a greedy person own? I am taking a poll (please aim high as I don’t want to think of myself as really greedy!). I am thinking that as long as I own enough to wear within the span of a lifetime, I am not really greedy. I don’t have a signature fragrance because I look at wearing scent like wearing clothes; I don’t want to wear the same shirt every day! I don’t think I have left the house without a daily application in years and am never really “naked” because I am always spritzed and ready to go! I almost always reapply after I get home from work and often again before bed. So, you are probably asking yourself where the greed comes in…well, let’s go back to the Swiss Montale story from a few weeks ago. Remember, I placed an order and it was a nightmare and also wonderful because they sent me an extra bottle of Orient Extreme, for free. Let’s pick up the story from where I left off. I had just received my box after a few weeks of waiting (you will see where the greed comes in pretty quickly).

October 4, 2007. After thinking about the Montale sale, I wrote to Florence and asked what she still has available and she sent the list. Oh, no! She has Black Aoud again! I think I will place another order. I also want a back-up of Greyland because I love its delicious spicy cumin and oud witchery. I am really hoping she throws in a ton of extra goodies that I haven’t tried yet.

Later in the day – I placed the order through PayPal and I hope this all works out. I have been checking out the progress of some friends on Basenotes and it does not look good. There are several people complaining because they haven’t received their packages. I am going to remain confident and keep a positive attitude because it won’t happen to me (said with my fingers and toes crossed).

October 11, 2007. I am trying to remain calm. I haven’t received a receipt or notification of any kind from Montale. There are now 18 pages of (mostly) complaints listed on Basenotes from people that haven’t received their orders or are unable to get a response. Maybe once they get caught up on the orders, I will hear something. Still hopeful.

October 26, 2007. Well, it has been almost a month and I still haven’t heard a word! I have written to the Swiss Montale boutique several times. Luckily, there were several other Basenoters that had done the research and through them I was able to get a phone number. I am calling tomorrow when they are open (my time zone is 7 hours behind them).

November 2, 2007. I reached a woman that told me to send my information because Florence isn’t in. She said she would get back to me within 5 minutes with details and tracking. It has been 5 hours and still nothing!

November 4, 2007. Florence finally wrote. She said she is going to refund my money because they are out of everything I ordered. It was exactly a month ago that I placed the order and she just figured this out?

November 5, 2007. Florence wrote again this morning with news that they mailed out my package!?!

November 6, 2007. There is a new thread on Basenotes with the wacky things going on with the Montale orders. So many people have received the wrong stuff. Please, oh please, oh please! There is a poor guy that ordered Black Aoud and it went to a wrong address and by the time it got to him the postage was so high that he wanted to return it. He called Florence and she had him return the package. The plan was that she would then ship to the right address and he wouldn’t have to pay the extra postage. By the time he was able to speak to Florence again, they had opened his box and sent out his bottle of Black Aoud and now they can’t fill his order. Oh please, all of the scent angels and perfume spirits hear my prayer…let there be some Black Aoud left for me!

November 13, 2007. The box has arrived. It is beaten to shreds and it sounds like something is broken inside! Remain calm…breathe! Nope, nothing is broken. My bottles of Greyland and Black Aoud are here like I ordered along with a bottle of Soliel de Capri and a small bottle of Wood-Spices. There are also a ton of samples including the Nejma line. I sure hope this isn’t the bottle of Black Aoud that was taken from the fellow Basenoter….

My lesson is to never, NEVER do that again. I can’t tell you how many emails I sent not to mention phone calls to Switzerland! That was too much stress, although, I did get some really good deals. Just say no, just say no, just say no…

Photo of the Swiss Montale Boutique is courtesy of Kelley's devious mind.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Perfume Review: Cumming, the Fragrance

Review by Tom

Celebrity fragrances are an odd breed: they can be Old School, Like Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, or new style like Paris Hilton's (insert name of whatever here), which frankly are usually pretty ghastly. Or they can be cutting-edge, like Miller Harris l'Air de Rien (which, since it was designed for Jane Birkin I am counting) and gorgeous.

Cumming, the Fragrance is certainly in the latter group.

It's hardly a shock to read at the website that Chris Brosius of Demeter and CB I Hate Perfume was the nose behind this one, the only person I would think that would get within fifteen miles of Cumming's opening would be Chris Sheldrake, and he would not have gone so literal: it's rubber and tuffley peat and pine a fair bit of man-juice (I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where they went over the notes: I can see Alan Cumming knocking back his second single malt and halfway through his Cohiba, joking "I want it to smell like drunken sex with me in a rubber suit" and CB taking notes, a wicked gleam in his eyes.). It's not Secretions Magnifiques- there's no note of CSI: Coney Island in there, thank goodness. It is more than a bit "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" and I cannot fathom how they thought it would fly at Sephora, but most of that drops out within ten minutes, leaving an earthy leather with a hint of the rubber. After an hour or so, it's left as a very warm skin scent with only a hint of the peaty truffled dirty note that dominates the beginning. I actually wish it was a little more long-lasting; the dissonance between the kinky man-sex opening and the rather demure drydown made me want a bit more.

Cumming, the Fragrance is clearly as personal a scent as l'Air de Rien is, and is clearly made to Mr. Cumming's specifications and likes with no thought as to whether it's commercial. It's clearly made focusing on invention and more than a fair bit of humor. Of course I don't know him, but I would imagine that it's pretty much a reflection of his personality.

Experiment time! I layered with CB I Hate Perfume Musk. It sweetened the opening and middle and made more deep the drydown. I think Mr. Cumming should get an EDP out there soon.

Cumming the Fragrance is available at his website, $69.00 (bien sur) for 3.4 ounces. There are also body products like lotion for $49 for 12 oz, an 8oz soap for $22 and 12oz body cleanser for $39 and a 12 oz body scrub for $45.

Image source,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Perfume Review: Cecile & Jeanne Eliel

Attention all lovers of Annick Goutal scents! There exists an obscure gem, called Eliel, created by Isabelle Doyen for Cecile & Jeanne, a French costume jeweler. Despite being right next door to Cecile & Jeanne five days a week and despite visiting often to admire the doves ( I have a thing for doves and so apparently does Jeanne, the designer), I might have never noticed the small red bottles modestly standing in a corner, have it not been mentioned to me, rather nonchalantly, that Cecile & Jeanne has a perfume too, made for them exclusively by Annick Goutal. My enthusiastic reaction must have been quite startling.

According to OsMoz (and if there is a record of the scent on OsMoz, it can't be that obscure), Eliel was created in 2005. Meant to convey an image of "radiant femininity", the Eau de Parfum has notes of osmanthus, bergamot, coriandre, jasmine, patchouli, muscatel raisins, leathery and spicy notes and sweet pea, and is immediately recognizable as a Goutal fragrance. It has the joyous, champagne-like sparkly feel of Le Jasmin, the ripe booziness of Ce Soir ou Jamais, the unexpectedly spicy, almost harsh sweetness of Vanille Exquise and the overall feel of very feminine and seemingly effortless elegance of Goutal/Doyen creations. The top notes are indeed radiant. The piquancy of coriander creates a nose-tingling sensation akin to that brought on by champagne bubbles. The fruity aspect of osmanthus is quite apparent, and together with citruses and the spicy coriander, the apricot-like note adds an almost aldehydic feel to the composition. The heart of jasmine (and undoubtedly, rose) is decadent in its sensual, inebriated sweetness, and the base notes are dark and brooding and seem to me to have a generous dose of gaiac wood so loved by Doyen. Classically chic, very French and very Goutal, Eliel deserves to be much more widely known.

Eliel costs $90.00 for 50ml and can be found at Cecile & Jeanne's Madison Ave. boutique, 1100 Madison Ave., tel.: 212.535.5700, as well as, most probably, at other boutiques. For more information on the company and the boutiques, but, strangely, not on the scent, visit

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A World Apart: The Secret Perfumes Revealed

By Donna

For many years, since it first opened in fact, I have been a loyal and appreciative customer of The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon. I have bought some of the finest fragrances the world has to offer, and enjoyed countless others over the years when I would try dozens of scents each visit, yet never getting close to the bottom of the dazzling array the shop offers. New temptations beckoned constantly and old favorites were fondly revisited. However, in all that time there was one thing I had never done. I had never attended a showing of the Private Reserve collection, and it was high time to do it.

I had been on the list since early summer, and several months passed before I got The Call: there was an open slot for an upcoming event and would I like to attend? Would I ever! I was in high anticipation mode all the following week, waiting for the day. At last, I would get to find out what all the fuss was about. Could they really be that good? Well, if the entire collection were even half as good as the two I had already sampled, it would be plenty. The first one I will be talking about later; the second was the newest addition, a Tuberose soliflore so stupefyingly wonderful that it made me even more eager to try all of them.

I arrived at the shop along with a small group of people, ranging from longtime customers like me to a woman who had only been to the shop once before. One of the reasons it takes awhile to get a spot is that the shop can only accommodate small numbers of people at a time; it is not very large and it is crammed with so many perfumes, soaps and other goodies that every inch of space is used. A couple of people had attended a showing before, but most of us were wide-eyed neophytes to the inner sanctum.

Before the showing actually started, the owner, Chris Tsefalas, told some of his wonderful perfume stories and gave us the background of how the Private Reserve collection came to be. Master perfumers created all of the many scents in the collection over many years, and all of the essences originate in France. The French Perfume Council controls the formulae, which are closely guarded secrets. The oils used in these perfumes are also very special, as they are never released for use in commercial perfumery. The reason for this is that each and every one of the scents was originally a private creation, commissioned by a family or an individual, including members of European royal families. These oils are still owned by the families, and a certain quantity has been released to be sold to private customers. We were going to be experiencing perfumes worn by Romanovs, Hapsburgs, Bourbons, and wealthy aristocrats going back some two hundred years and even more. Only the best ingredients would do for people like this, of course, and the other unique feature that vaults these perfumes head and shoulders above commercial fragrances is that they contain no alcohol; they are composed only of the finest oils. Chris told us to remember, as a matter of perspective, that the famous Joy parfum by Jean Patou, as costly as it is, is only about five percent actual perfume oil. The Private Reserve scents are all one hundred percent oils. This results in a very stable product; they do not change very much at all, so what you smell right out of the bottle and on your skin is how they will remain. This also means that only a small amount goes a long way, so a small bottle will last a long time. (That is the theory anyway; some people use these up very quickly.)

As Chris talked about the perfumes, his daughter laid out the scents on the counters, and put a little bit of each one on a piece of cotton. I could smell wonderful things happening, but it was not overwhelming since there was no alcohol and no spraying. The feminine and masculine scents were in separate groups, and we had handouts listing each perfume in the order in which they were to be tried. I got dizzy just reading the descriptions! I was invited to start first, and I was not shy about it. Finally I would know the finest perfumes in the world!

I began with the women’s perfumes, stopping and savoring each one. There were fifty of these, and what can I say except that they were ALL very good, and that only a very few did not really appeal to me, though I could admire them as masterful compositions. One thing that struck me is how my nose did not need to “rest” in between after I had tried several of them. There was no olfactory overload at all, and I was able to go right down the line and test them all. This of course was due to the absence of alcohol and other additives present in other fragrances, and to the extremely high quality of the perfume oils. Each one had its own perfect clarity to my nose, and each was very distinct unto itself. I will tell you about just a few favorites.

Clelia is described as being for the young or young at heart. Green notes, pineapple, jasmine, rose, muguet, sandalwood and cedar. This one will either make you smile or break your heart.

Semiramis has an Oriental character, but is very soft and not overly sweet. Amber, sandalwood, jasmine, iris, rose, violet, narcissus, ylang-ylang, vanilla.

Yasminale is one of my very favorites and may be the finest jasmine-rose blend in the known universe. Top notes of floral greens and peach, a heart of Moroccan roses and jasmine along with muguet, with a base of sandalwood and musk. It is so very lovely and feminine I can’t stop thinking about it. A perfect fragrance for a bride, it gave me a vision of flying magically through pink clouds floating across the sky on a sublime late summer afternoon.

Fragrance Clair is an airy, refined bouquet, a lovely blend of pink jasmine, muguet, and lilac on a powdery wood and musk base. This is a perfume for a true Lady, or even a Queen.

Rose Etoile is a blend of different roses and honey; simple yet very effective, it is warm, inviting and sensual. This is a comfort scent in the very best sense.

No. 18 de HJ is a mysterious, mossy green scent that is nothing short of addictive. Notes: Vetiver, tree moss, hyacinth, iris, jasmine, seringa, bergamot, musk, amber, myrrh. This one has echoes of my sadly discontinued favorite Green Floral of all time, Jean Patou Vacances. That alone puts it close to the top of my list.

Valentys is an ode to gardenias and romance, so soft and flowery it was like a feather bed made of white blossoms. I just wanted to dive into it.

Marie Antoinette Violette is quite simply the finest violet scent I have ever smelled, most certainly the sexiest one, and it does not “disappear” after a short time like most of them. Violet flowers and leaves are blended with myrrh, frankincense and amber. That may sound like an odd combination, but my knees buckled when I tried it. If you think you don’t like violets, this will change your mind.

Palma is like a breeze blowing over a desert garden, with notes both sharp and sweet; nasturtiums, hyacinth, rose, bergamot, slightly powdery musk, Turkish rose, grass notes and amber. I just sighed when I smelled it.

#4 – That’s the name, just a number, but this one might be my very favorite, along with Yasminale. It is not just fresh and ethereal; it is absolutely transcendent. When I smelled it I was swept away to the time I was privileged to experience a small group of fine perfumes that had been commissioned for the Czars of Russia, and they were made from the very finest materials in France. (This was many years ago and these are no longer available.) I was lucky enough to buy one of them at the time, a green floral/chypre with a name I could not pronounce. Smelling it transported me to a deep green forest where I could feel gentle breezes blowing through the trees and hear the sweet songs of the birds. This humbly named #4 is so very like that one that I can believe it was the base for that perfume! There is nothing else like it in the world, and I could not believe that after all this time I could experience that wonderful fragrance again. The top notes are of wildflowers, muguet, jasmine and orange, with a heart of ylang-ylang and sandalwood. The base notes are woody, along with oakmoss and grey amber. This is a masterpiece by any measure.

Most of the Private Reserve scents are complex blends, but there is a small group of soliflores as well – Jasmine, Gardenia, Fleur d’Oranger, Muguet, Tuberose, and several different types of Rose, including White Rose, Red Rose, and Rose O’od, which seems to be a variant spelling of Oud (or Aoud), as it smells a lot like an oil version of the very fine Montale rose scents. All of these are excellent of course, but the star of them all, and of the entire collection, is the heart-stopping Snow Rose, a very special blend of Oriental roses from the Himalayas. I can tell by the quality of the scent that it is made from Musk roses, a group of rose species with the unusual quality of sending the scent from their tiny flowers into the surrounding air, unlike others that hold on to their perfume and must be smelled at close range. This is a Rose like no other, so soft and pure and pristine, celestial even, that it is easy to understand why the rose is so revered in the Orient and how highly regarded this perfume is. It is a favorite of many famous people and is also greatly esteemed by the master perfumers of the world. (You may have never heard of it before, but they certainly have.) It’s one of those things to put on your must-smell-this-before-I-die list, very close to the top.

Moving on to the men’s perfumes, of which there are twenty, I found a lot to love there too. I would wear many of them myself; none of them have the harshness and brute strength of modern “manly” scents. Some of them could easily be thought of as being meant for women, so refined are they. Emilio is such a one, with plum, lemon, coriander, ylang-ylang, Turkish rose, cinnamon, olibanum, benzoin, patchouli and sandalwood. Paccino is more bracing, having top notes of bergamot, lavender and rosemary, with a heart of cinnamon, pine needles and geranium, on a base of amber, cedar wood and honey. Peluche is a stunner dominated by basil, cumin and green notes, with middle notes of thyme, rose and carnation, drying down to olibanum, leather and cedar. M. Aquaroc is the best lemon scent I have ever smelled, for either men or women. Dragonera is so green yet so woody, and so very masculine – vetiver, moss, ivy and lavender, on a base of amber and patchouli - that I would happily pay a man to put it on just so I could smell his neck. Faissal is fabulous and really different – how about violet, leather and tangerine all in one fragrance? Another favorite is simply called Fragrance for Men – who said minimalism is a modern invention? A burst of lemon, lime and green notes leads to a spicy, warm heart of pepper, tobacco, clove and musk. This is the scent of a confident man with impeccable good taste, yet it is also very sensual. I would wear it myself if I didn’t prefer to smell it on a gentleman.

I was there for three hours, and by the time I left I was in an altered state of euphoric bliss. I tried everything twice, and then I went back and tried those I had marked as favorites, then I tried all those again, and I finally came up with a top six in each category, women’s and men’s, plus the soliflores, to create my must-have list. My final impressions: these are all outstanding fragrances, and each one has its own special character according to the formula used by its mysterious maker from many years ago.

One thing is very striking; as different as they all are from each other, the ingredients are very traditional. Rose, jasmine, iris, muguet, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, etc., appearing over and over again in combination. None of the perfumes smelled like a martini or a cigarette or cotton candy either, and there were no weird ingredients such as “iced red fruits” or “waterfall accord” or other such nonsense, just the pure and simple art of perfumery using time-honored materials. If you think about it, it’s all in the hands of the artist. The same English language that was used to create the works of William Shakespeare is also employed to make trashy paperback romance novels, and the same oil paint that gave us the masterworks of Rembrandt and Michelangelo also gives us the wretched and overwrought sentimentality of Thomas Kinkade. It depends very much on the hand that guides the work being done.

Well now you may ask, how do I get my hands on these beauties? You don’t – unless you attend a showing. Call and get on the list, and be prepared to reschedule anything else you have going on that day. (It’s virtually always a Sunday.) Once you have attended a showing you may order something, and as long as you do so again within twelve months you stay on it and you can reorder what you first purchased or try others, whatever you like. You may only have one bottle of a certain perfume at a time, however. The shop does not stock them, the owner places the order to France each time. Only the sample bottles are kept at the store. As I said earlier, these are under very tight control. As one might imagine, these are not cheap either, but they are less costly than many perfumes that are mainly alcohol as there is no marketing campaign for them. All the bottles are the same, pretty little rounded crystal flacons, and one-half ounce is $250.00 while a full ounce is $350.00. These will last most people a very long time. Being different from most people, I “need” all twelve of my favorite blends plus at least six soliflores, and I am looking into the possibility of selling off any vital organs I can do without. These are worth it if anything is.

It was such a privilege to discover these fine scents, all of them demonstrations of the highest art of perfumery. The masters who created them are long gone, but those who guard the integrity of every one of them keep their secrets alive. I will never forget the rare experience of sampling the very best that the world of fragrance has to offer. It is a comfort to me to know that even in today’s world of short attention spans and endless hype, there is something like this, real and special and enduring.

Image credit: Cover art from The Secret Garden, one of my favorite books of all time, from the wiki site Project Gutenberg. You can go there and download over 17,000 complete books that are in the public domain, including this one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Perfume Review: Lancome Cuir (La Collection re-issue)

From Révolte to Cuir to Cuir re-release, the devolution of one scent illustrates the downhill trajectory of Lancôme's develoment in the sphere of perfume and, I will say this at the danger of sounding too dramatic and making too sweeping a generalization, the trajectory of the whole perfumery.

The new Cuir is not a bad scent - not at all! - in fact, it is very attractive. Those happily unfamiliar with the old version, will rejoice at the fact that Lancôme released a perfume that is not a fruity floral and not another version of Miracle (which is to say, not a fruity floral). Those who, like me, were corrupted by the dark, dirty, sinful beauty of the original Cuir, will find Cuir No 2 lacking ...lacking character, lacking intensity, and above all lacking cuir. There is certainly some leather there but it is buried under a heap of sweet citruses and powdery flowers. The beginning is pleasant, with mandarin adding a candied aspect to the leather accord; the floral heart is very elegant ...but such an emphasis on other ingredients obscures the title note and gives the fragrance an air of dainty femininity. With its powdery softness, the new Cuir is closer to Rykiel Woman Not For Men or even Cuir Beluga than to the 1939 original. Whereas the original Cuir was a barbarian who almost couldn't be bothered to appear refined, the new one is well-mannered, demure, and awfully embarrassed by its disreputable predecessor.

When, a couple of months ago, I inquired about the arrival of the re-released Cuir to the States, the ever-knowledgeable customer service officials at told me that the fragrance named Cuir is not being released. Smelling it now makes me wish they were right. It also makes me wish that Lanvin never attempts a re-issue of Scandal. Let the dead stay honorably dead rather that resuscitating them into politically correct shadows of their former striking selves.

According to osmoz, Cuir is available in select stores only; more information on its availability can probably be obtained from Institut Lancôme, tel : +33 (0)1 42 65 30 74, but I frankly am not moved enough to make an effort.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Perfume Review: Alexander McQueen Kingdom

Review by Kelley

Every time I wear Kingdom, I have this image in my head that I just can’t shake. Have you ever had someone say something to you that almost ruined your enjoyment of a fragrance? I remember reading on Basenotes about a guy that was wearing a spicy, clove based scent to the dentist and now he can’t wear it without feeling sick to his stomach. This problem I have is also because of fellow Basenoters and their reviews (sorry, but this is one instance I definitely don’t agree with the many reviewers of Kingdom). You see the problem is “love-purse”. Let me explain by quoting one of my favorite scenes from the Steve Martin film, “The Lonely Guy”.

Picture Steve sitting at his typewriter clack-clack-clacking away with a serious look on his face. He has just been fired from a greeting card company for writing depressing cards. Let’s listen in as he reads from his very first attempt at a romance novel…

“Soon the primal fire began to burn in Lady Hookstratton’s body. Her hips twitched and trembled as each fireball from Oliver’s powerful cannon erupted like molten lava into the quivering mouth of her ever fluttering love-purse.”

Maybe this review should have come with an “R” rating? Okay, so the problem is that there are a million reviews of Kingdom that describe it as reminding straight men of a certain area of the female body, now known as the “love-purse”. WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THAT? You know the closest I have ever come to a, you know, was the instant I was born. Given that fact, I have to heartily disagree with my fellow Basenoters on this. I may not have first hand proof, however… Oh, and I know where all the horny guys on BN got their ideas, from the ad Mr. McQueen released!

“[Kingdom] is a fragrance created to evoke sensuality and sexuality. It aims to describe women’s private world, when no men are present.” From website

I would like to stress that the ad said it describes “women’s private WORLD” and not “private parts”.

Kingdom is a spicy/oriental, created in 2003.

Notes include: Calabrian Bergamot, Sicilian Mandarin, Orange , Tunisian Neroli, Rose, Indian Jasmine, Cumin, Ginger, French Vanilla, and Indonesian Myrrh

I just wish that I could do this scent justice in my review but it is almost beyond description. The first spray is always a shock with loads of indolic jasmine, juicy ginger root, and cumin. This is the garden of desire. My heart starts beating faster with the excitement of the initial notes. On my skin, the opening notes remind me of dark Dutch paintings in which overripe fruit lie sliced and arranged under huge sprays of tulips and roses and orchids, many of which are beginning to wilt and drop petals. The top notes start falling away after about an hour. When the florals have gone, it’s all about cumin and vanilla and myrrh. McQueen’s ads say that this scent is all about sandalwood but I never get much sandalwood in this. The next stage is still sexy and sweaty but it stays closer to the skin. The myrrh eventually takes center stage and has a moldy, mushroomy quality that reminds me of dirt and decay. Do you see the beauty of this scent and its design? It starts off with lust and passion…with crushed jasmine and sensuous fruit and then leaves you surrounded by heavenly myrrh. We have crawled out of bed with a lover only to run to church. I feel so naughty when I wear this.

Kingdom is artistic. It’s extremely strange. It's polarizing. It’s shocking in its blatant sexuality. It was doomed to failure from the instant it was born.

The body lotion has more of a sandalwood smell and is more masculine in character.

Will I let the other reviewers ruin this fragrance for me? Nope. Do I still love and wear Kindgom? All the time. Do I still have that silly image in my head? Yep, and it makes me laugh. I would like to make a request that if you love scents of all kinds, that you at least try this.

Kingdom is/was available in an eau de toilette, and a limited edition eau de toilette as well as a special summer edition, but my favorite is the original eau de parfum. It is still available online at Ebay and other discount perfume sellers until it’s gone for good.

Photo of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" is from

Friday, November 09, 2007

Perfume Review: Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca and Patchouli

Question: after every single brand has jumped on the trend-wagon and created a luxury line within a line, would that saturate the fragrance market with high-priced scents to an extent that exclusivity will loose its elegant sheen and "luxe" won't seem all that luxurious anymore? ...And do you, like me, feel that the moment of such saturation has actually already arrived?

And now for Comme des Garcons not just luxe but LUXE duo of $265-for-45ml-of-not-even-parfum creations.

Champaca starts wonderfully well, as what I think of as champaca per se, robustly floral, with a prominent green, herbaceous undertone. It then goes through an uninteresting stage when it smells like your basic, fresh jasmine. Fairly soon, however, the scent develops a strong tuberose note, which, thanks to the presence of angelica and pepper, is green and dewy rather then sweet and creamy. After hours and hours of unchanging easy, breezy, beautiful tuberosiness, it simply wears off my skin seemingly without featuring any typical base notes: no woods, no noticeable musk, just fresh, slightly green flowers. Champaca is not something I came to expect from Comme des Gacons. It is not strikingly orginal, it is "simply" beautiful. A good-quality, handsome floral blend. Worth $265 for 45 ml? Not for me.

Patchouli. Now we are talking. Now we are talking the birth of a lemming. Now we are talking a new cold weather favorite. It might be called, Patchouli, but the scent is much more than that, it is a complex, ever-changing blend of all things wonderful. First blast is that of peppery incense, dark and warm. A dry, resinous woody note that I take to be oak materializes from the brooding depths of incense. The austere, arid wood slowly becomes a little sweeter, a little softer - this is when I smell fenugreek, which, as we all know, has the same green, meaty, curry-like sweetness as immmortelle. Opoponax covers that woody greenness with a layer of golden powder and vanilla and sandalwood ...oh, vanilla and sandalwood are delicious together, creating a strangely gourmand, warmly-piquant base on which the intricate composition finally rests. And patchouli? Patchouli is everywhere and nowhere at once. It is playing games, hiding in the fleshy verdancy of fenugreek, suddenly appearing from under the black cloak of incense, adding something almost chocolate-like to the woody-sweet notes of the drydown. In other words, the presence of the star note is always noticeable, but never too obvious, never trivial. Is LUXE Patchouli worth $265 for 45ml? I would be lying if I said that I am not longing to buy it...but, no, it probably isn't worthy that much money for that size, in that concentration. Frankly, nothing is.

Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca and Patchouli are available at Luckyscent, in Pyramid (interesting) and Cube (Piguet-inspired?) bottles.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Perfume Review: Sarrasins by Serge Lutens

Review by Tom

In 1984 (when I was 7), a good friend of mine managed to scam the second of many jobs for me, this time at the Olympic Arts Festival an adjunct to the 1984 Olymics in Los Angeles. I was an East Coast boy, having grown up in New England and at that point living in New York. I sounded (and still do when I am tired) a bit like Katharine Hepburn, had milk-white skin, pale grey-green eyes and dark ash-blond (according to my last hair-guy matching what's not grey now) hair. In short, I did not look like your stereotypical Californian. For the first few weeks I stayed at a college friends parent's house in Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills; I shocked my hosts by walking down the long driveway and strolling down to the Beverly Hills Hotel to buy cigarettes- I think they thought I was slightly insane, and that I would be picked up by the police. Since this was the evening and the gift shop was closed, the staff directed me to a vending machine they used; I felt like I was in a special club. A few times I would have a drink at the Polo Lounge. Even though I must looked like a total rube, with my pink button-down, chinos and topsiders and a tweed jacket of my Dad's from Cahill and Hogges or the red Eisenhower jacket I bought at Canal Jeans I never felt unwelcome, they were warm and pleasant. Then I would take myself back up the canyon road to my hosts house, my pack of Lucky Strikes in my pocket, stopping every block or so to sniff the wild profusion of bushes of night-blooming jasmine that were perhaps more heady than the glass of peaty Laphroig I'd spend three hours pay on.

Sarrasins opens with exactly that jasmine: heady, but blameless and unexpectedly clean as it draws you in. There is a dusty, slightly ozonic note to it, like settled car exhaust. There's a taste of green to this that's true to the jasmine here; something about the general of the dryness of the climate that flattens the sort of rot aspect that Jasmine has in say the deep south. Like our "June Gloom", a seasonal onshore flow of moisture from the Pacific that makes for morning and evening fog despite daytime heat and dryness, Sarrasins as it develops becomes more moist and more animal, then oddly fades. It becomes sepia-toned, like my memory of my strolls through that Benedict Canyon evening nearly a quarter-century ago. I truly wish that I could write that it builds upon that initial, transportive opening, but it doesn't. From Colombina's review, and from their website "a sumptuous jasmin which smoothes its fur... a sigh of time". I didn't want it to smooth it's fur; I don't want it to sigh. I wanted it to go further, bolder. It settled from exuberance into flattened middle-age. So, perhaps have I, but I don't want scents to reflect that. I want it to deliver on it's Welches grape colored promise.

Mssrs Lutens and Sheldrake, we know you have it in you and you know we'll jump through hoops to get it.

Wow us. I dare you.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Perfume Review: Lalique Amethyst

I adored two out of the last three Lalique's releases, the chic almost-gourmand comfort scent, Le Parfum, and the sublime "mineral" vetiver, Encre Noir, and liked Perles de Lalique, which, although not especially original, was undeniably beautiful. And so I came to expect great things from Lalique and was excitedly looking forward to their latest offering, Amethyst. A road to disappointment is paved with great expectations.

Amethyst starts with a truly enjoyable burst of blackcurrant juice, an explosion of sweet tangy-ness from a berry freshly squeezed between fingers. The smell of blackcurrants is forever associated for me with my childhood, summers at the dacha, my great grandma...I have been looking for a true blackcurrant fragrance which would be this radiant and only subtly sweet and, for a lack of better word, natural, for a long time. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes into the scent's development, the freshly picked real berries suddenly turned into plastic effigies, and the just as synthetic raspberry appeared, completely unwelcome, and added a syrupy and what I can only call "generic department store scent" feel to the blend. Worst of all, however, was the musk. I want to appeal to those in whose power it is to cease the production of fruity-musky scent to please do so. The combination of sparkling berries/fruits and the soft white musk might seem like a great mix, but it is apparently very hard to pull off in any sort of original manner. If you smelled one of those blends, you've smelled them all, and good ones are very few and very far between.

I suppose, as fruity fragrances go, Amethyst, is not the worst. In fact, it is better than most. It smells like Mûre et Musc Extrême Light, if that makes any sense. If this is Lalique's nod to younger clientèle, I suppose, it might actually do quite well with the target audience. Me, I am sticking with Le Parfum and Encre Noir and am still expecting great new scents from Lalique in not too distant a future.

Image source,

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Christian Dior La Collection Particuliere

The first glimpse of La Collection Particuliere... Be still my beating heart.

La Collection Particuliere Passage No 4: "A sovereign rose, a fiery pimento, a journey, a garden."

La Collection Particuliere Passage No 8: "A velvet violet, a sophisticated iris, a dream, a burst of laughter."

La Collection Particuliere Passage No 9: "A dazzling tuberose, creamy woods, late nights, fireworks."

3 fragrances of exception created by John Galliano. Exclusively in Dior boutiques from November 19th.

More information can be found on

The Three Zens

By Marla

Shiseido believes in recycling, and while that's a good thing for bottles and paper, I'm not sure it's such a good thing for perfume names. Shiseido has 3 scents with the name of Zen now, and they are all completely different from one another. I own the first two, but won't be buying the third. Here are mini reviews of all 3 Zens.

The first Zen came out in 1964. It's in a matte black bottle with gold lettering and leaves. Woods, spice, a little incense, some aldehydes. It's a "little black dress" perfume, very classy, quite masculine. Nothing sweet or gourmand, and not particularly floral, either. I can't bear aldehydes but they are really well done here and laid on quite lightly. This can still be bought at Epcot at Disney World in the Japanese village, and at a good price (around $20 for 15ml). I highly recommend it to those who, like me, aren't really into florals or fruit.

In 2000, Shiseido decided to reuse the name Zen for a perfume that has nothing in common with its predecessor. Here are the notes: gentian, hyacinth, valerian, mousouchiku, moss, violet, iris, headspace kyara incense (agarwood), and white musk. This middle period Zen is in a pearl bottle shaped as an abstract pair of hands in a prayer position. The scent is meant to be aromatherapeutic, and induce calm reflection. I find it's really good for meditation, particularly the 15ml of essence in the small pearl bottle. This is a sheer white floral with light woods, a bit of Japanese agarwood, and light musk. Very pretty and soothing.

So for 2007, Zen is reborn in a golden square bottle. I tried this a few days ago, thinking I could start a Zen sub-collection, but I was put off. It starts with a blast of synthetic fruit and shrill flowers, a bit like a vase of plastic roses next to a bowl of fluorescent rubber fruit. It actually hurt my nose a bit. It settles down to a very generic fruity-floral, unobjectionable but for me, not bottle-worthy either. The glass bottle is lovely, though.

I suppose in a few years we'll see Zen IV. Perhaps a hesperidic scent? Or maybe leather?

Image source, koncertissimo on ebay.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Perfume Review: By Kilian L'oeuvre Noire Collection

By Kilian press kit, available for all to read on, stirred in me two simultaneous and contradictory instincts. First one is an instinct to respect anyone who is capable of mentioning Rimbaud and 50 Cent in the same paragraph…because, heaven knows, my tastes are nothing if not eclectic…and the other – to snicker when faced with phrases like “nudity of another kind”, “quasi-Faustian ambience” and “the sound of ‘Hennessy & Buddha’ by Snoop Dogg seems to attain Nirvana.” The modestly named L’oeuvre Noire, The Black Masterpiece, is apparently built around three themes: Ingénues, Artificial Paradises and Parisian Orgies, and is no less than the “new take on La Comédie Humaine, Balzac's consummate masterpiece”. I would say that my tolerance threshold for conceptual pretentiousness is fairly high, higher than normal even (witness my love for Tom Ford’s Private Blend or for early Lutens), all I ask is that, when the posturing copy and the over-the-top packaging are stripped off, they reveal complex, imaginatively-constructed, striking fragrances. And so, I wasn’t necessarily turned off by the blah-de-la-blah descriptions. But I was largely unimpressed by the actual perfumes.

The Ingénues

“The woman wearing these fragrances epitomizes tenderness. She tastes like youth
but already knows how to deploy feminine wiles. Sin is just a kiss away.”

Love, which takes inspiration “from the Marshmallow”, certainly “tastes like youth”. Or, to be more precise, like the very pink and very hard to get in USSR bubblegum of my childhood. Not too sweet, unexpectedly delicate, the blend is whimsical, childish and, in a strange and frankly disturbing sort of way, rather sensual. I am at once attracted and almost repulsed by this Lolita of a scent, which, I suppose, might have been the effect the creators were intending to achieve, and, in that case, I applaud them. Those who loved Framboise Tralala or D’Humeur a Rire, might finally find their bubblegummy fix in the floral candiedness of Love.

Beyond Love. Whereas Love was the epitome of Ingénue, Beyond Love would have been better off placed in the Parisian Orgies category. Since when was tuberose (seemingly) innocent? As every self-respecting tuberose fragrance, Beyond Love is all about “feminine wiles”. Slightly mentholated in the beginning, the scent warms up and sweetens considerably, transforming from frigid to fairly uninhibited in a matter of minutes. In its heart, I smell a gardenia note, which, of course, strengthens the sensual white-floral impact of the composition. The luscious, expansive bouquet is, not surprisingly, my favorite scent in the By Kilian collection. Gorgeous as it is, however, it is not earth-shatteringly original. In fact, it strongly reminds me of Lauder’s radiant Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. To be purchase-worthy for me at $250 for 50ml, the perfume would have to add something new to the time-honored tuberose genre, a quirky note a la Tubereuse Criminelle perhaps, an overdose of the star ingredient a la Carnal Flower…just being beautiful is not quite enough, in this case.

The Artificial Paradises

“To taste paradise, a man must defy holiness and magic. These fragrances hail from a new paradise, one that man has chosen for himself.”

A Taste of Heaven. I would have been shocked if this apparently Baudelaire-worshipping line did not have an absinthe-inspired scent. Although it doesn’t actually smell like absinthe, the sharply aromatic and smoky-sweet blend does in fact evoke the experience of drinking absinth…sugar cubes on a spoon, the pungently smelling “Green Fairy liquid” poured over them…unfortunately, something went wrong in the preparation of the drink, and instead of finishing the ritual by pouring water over the sugar cubes, someone dumped into the glass a whole tube of shaving cream. As the fragrance progresses the very soapy lavender starts to dominate A Taste of Heaven turning what could have been an original, quirkily gourmand blend into a cliché masculine composition.

Straight to Heaven. One absinthe scent doth not a decadent image create, and thus By Kilian also offers a rum-inspired fragrance. I like the dry spiciness and the earthiness of Straight to Heaven more than the green, soapy sweetness of A Taste to Heaven, but every time I wear it I can’t shake of the feeling of having smelled its boozy smokiness before…perhaps in Idole, Egoiste or Basala. Like Beyond Love, it is very attractive but I suppose not intoxicating enough to lead me into the temptation of purchasing it for $250.00.

The Parisian orgies

“In fragrances for both men and women, the Parisian orgy is a source of pleasure…. Bodies slick with sweat, hot with the odours of sexual favours bestowed and received during the night. In line with 18th-century libertine tradition, these two fragrances symbolize transgression, the pleasures of the flesh and defiance of prohibitions and conventions.”

Liaisons Dangereuses. The silky fruity-rose blend should have taken place of Beyond Love in the Ingénue category. Delicate and very feminine, it keeps its eyes shyly downcast making one believe that butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, whereas its décolleté would suggest otherwise (OK, these scents have a really bad effect on my prose!) I think those who like their roses dewy, juicy and not too complicated, would be delighted with Liaisons Dangereuses. To me, slyly coquettish as it is, the blend lacks either an animalic note to underscore its seductiveness or a generous amount of, say, aoud to make it truly dangereuse.

Cruel Intentions. One has to give credit where credit is due, the blend is certainly complex: the iodine undertones of oud are apparent here as is the sharp woodiness of gaiac and the green earthiness of vetiver…there is even a frankincense-like note in the composition. But somehow the scent feels flat, lackluster. All the ingredients are there to make magic happen, and…nothing! The wonderful notes should perhaps been stronger to achieve the forceful, brooding, “cruel” effect the creators must have been striving for. As it is, Cruel Intentions is just not daring enough to actually ever participate in an “orgy”.

Overall, it seems to me that the perfumes, nicely crafted as they are, just can’t live up to the big, complicated, decadent promise of the concept or to the exorbitant price. As for the latter, it is undoubtedly in large part due to the very fancy packaging. So when you think that By Kilians are overpriced, remember this: “The Greek motif places this fragrance under further divine protection: Achilles' shield protects its wearer.” In immortal words of Snoop Dogg, Fo' shizzle!

Image source,